Release A Dragon, Receive A Reward 放龍獲報

On the bank of the Lu River Li Yuan saw a small scarlet snake. Less than a chi in length, it was being harassed by a shepherd boy. Yuan bought it with a hundred cash, and released it among the thick vegetation. The following year, he was crossing the Long Bridge[1] again, and saw the Jinshi scholar Zhu Jun coming to call on him, saying: “Jun lives just a few hundred paces from the end of the bridge; their Excellency sends an invitation, if you will pardon me and sit.” Leading him to sit together in a boat, they travelled to a mountain, with richly decorated buildings and halls, all very tightly guarded. Presently, a person wearing a tall hat and ceremonial robes summoned Yuan, saying: “Our young son suffered misfortune and almost died at the hands of a mischievous boy; his humble life depended on the gentleman’s help.” Turning to Jun he ordered that he bow again, and then ordered a banquet be laid out, mixing products of land and sea, saying: “I am a fish of the southern seas; having achieved merit in life, the Heavenly Emperor decreed that I reside here, styling me Anliu Wang. I have a young servant, with the childhood name Yunjie, and I now present her to you; if you accept her, she will be of help.” Yuan therefore did not depart. He subsequently went to sit the civil examinations; when the test was due on the following day, Yunjie stealthily obtained the exam questions; Yuan then prepared his composition in advance, and, on entering the examination hall, felt great satisfaction, achieved great success and a recommendation as an imperial scholar. Yunjie said goodbye to him, saying: “I have obeyed the prince’s order and dare not stay long.” A poem of parting read:

Six years here to repay deep benevolence,

Saying farewell to the aquatic realm and the region of fish.

None say that newly-weds should be parted again,

All wish to share ancient love with new people.

Li Yuan was thus newly married at that time.

**uncertain translation**

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.118 (Tale 205):

放龍獲報

李元於吳江岸見小朱蛇,長不滿尺,為牧童所困。元以百錢買之,放於茂草中。明年,再經長橋,有進士朱浚來謁見,曰:「浚居橋尾數百步耳,大人遣奉召,幸恕坐。」邀同舟,至一山,樓殿寶飾,侍衛甚嚴。俄一人高冠道服,引元坐:曰:「小兒不幸,幾死頑童之手,賴君子活此微命。」顧浚令再拜,乃命置酒,水陸交錯,曰:「吾乃南海之鱗,有功於世,天帝詔居此,封安流王。吾有小奴,小字雲姐,今於贈子,子納之,當得其助。」元乃別去。後赴禮闈,明日當試,雲姐私入竊所試題目出,元乃檢閱宿構,入試,大得意,高捷薦名登科。雲姐告辭曰:「奉王命不敢久留。」作詩別曰:「六年於此報深恩,水國魚鄉是去程。莫謂初婚又相別,都將舊愛與新人。」時李元新娶故也。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.) Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986)

[1] An ancient structure in Jiangsu Province.

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An Unscrupulous Officer of the Way 法官不戒

Zhang Shengyuan, known as the ‘Sender of Thunder’, diligently followed the Way of Thunder, possessing exceptional power and efficacy; the populace all treated him as a transcendent. He resided in Lingdao Hall. One evening, when he was walking in the mountains, he defiled a village woman. When he returned at dusk, he lit a lamp, but there came the sound of a mouth eating and chewing, and suddenly dead fell to the ground. When the thunder spirits are like this, how can those scholars who follow the Way be disrespectful?

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.166 (Tale 289):

法官不戒

張聲遠,名雷發,奉行雷法,甚有靈驗,衆皆神之。寓廬陵道堂。一晚山行,污一村婦。暮歸,堂中焚炷,但口中作吃吃之聲,忽仆地竟死。雷將之靈如此,行法之士忽慢可乎?

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

Han Huang’s Clear Judgement 韓滉明察

Han Huang, Duke Jin (727-87 CE) was garrisoning Zhexi, his orders followed far and wide. At that time, Chen Shaoyou was military governor for Huainan, and when, in governing the populace, he had a case he was unable to straighten out, he went to call on Duke Jin, who would always resolve it. The revenue from Zheyou was sent across the river in a boat, but this was sunk by raging waves. When the boatman recruited people to dredge it up, they couldn’t find two strings of coins, so the populace had to make up the numbers. Jin went in person to the crossing, led an inspection, and then made a demand of the river spirits, indicating the money and saying: “This is dry money; it is not for those in the water to take.” He asked the clerk, and the clerk replied in confirmation. He again spoke to the shame of the matter. Suddenly the two strings of coins bobbed up on the wavetops, so he then plucked them out.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.9 (Tale 63):

韓滉明察

韓晉公滉鎮浙西,威令大行。時陳少游為淮南節度,理民有寃不得伸者,往詣晉公,必據而平之。浙右進錢,船渡江,為驚濤所溺。篙工募人漉出,二緡不得,衆以錢填其數。滉自至津,部視之,乃責江神,因指其錢曰:「此錢乾,非水中得之者。」問吏,吏具實對。復挩詞詬。俄然二緡浮出波上,遂以取之。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

A Dog-Headed Bride 狗頭新婦

When Jia Dan[1] was serving as commander of Huazhou, in Suanzao County there was a common woman who served a lady but showed her no respect. Because the lady was extremely old, and could see through neither of her eyes, when it came to her breakfast, the woman placed dog dung among the food and gave it to the lady. The lady having eaten this, her qi became abnormal. Her son having returned from travelling to distant parts, the lady asked her son: “What is this stuff? That woman gave it to me to eat.” Her son raised his face to heaven and gave a great howl. After a little while, [5] a lightning bolt came down, and it was as if someone had severed her head and replaced it with that of a dog. Jia ordered she be led into the county, and reported as one lacking filial respect. People at the time called her the ‘dog-headed bride’.

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories), 上1.4-5 (Tale 31):

狗頭新婦

賈耽為滑州節度,酸棗縣有俚婦事姑不敬,故年甚老,無雙目,旦食,婦以食裏納犬糞授姑。故食之,覺有異氣。其子出遠還,故問其子:「此何物?向者婦與吾食。」其子仰天大哭。有頃, [5] 雷電發,若有人截婦首,以犬續之。耽令牽行於境內,以告不孝者。時人謂之「狗頭新婦」。

Li Rong 李冗, Du yi zhi, 獨異志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories) in Du yi zhi, Xuanshi Zhi 獨異志,宣室志 (Outstanding Fantastic Stories, Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination), edited by Zhang Yongqin 张永钦 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983)

[1] Jia Dan 賈耽, courtesy name Dunshi 敦詩, 730-805 CE, a geographer and prime minister under the Tang. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jia_Dan.

A Copper Coffin Descends From Heaven 天降銅棺

Zou Su, the Wine Supervisor for Zhengzou, was just and impartial in office, and respected by people for that. In Zhengzhou one day, as the sun reached noon, wind and hail descended from the heavens, mist and cloud arose from all four sides around the north gate, and a black miasma spun out of it and arose vertically, meeting the heavens without dissipating. A lidless copper coffin descended from the sky, and music came loud and clear out of the empty air. At that time all of Zhengzhou’s junior clerks below the rank of prefect, generals and officers, scholars and commoners, monks and Daoists all changed their clothes and tried to get into the coffin. It being narrow outside and wide within, however, none were able to enter. Winding his wine supervisor’s kerchief as he arrived, Su was asked by the crowd to enter the coffin, and he had not the slightest difficulty. A moment later, a copper lid descended, circled by multi-coloured clouds, and it was all then lifted among the beautiful sound of immortals and the voices of cranes, amid auspicious clouds of heavenly fragrance, and, in a cloud of enduring mist, the coffin gradually turned to the north and departed. He now serves as the judge over longevity in the distant north.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後1.150 (Tale 263):

天降銅棺

鄭州監酒鄒宿,為官公正無私,人所推敬。一日,鄭州日方午,天降風雹,煙雲四起於北門,黑霧盤旋直上,衝天不散,降下無蓋銅棺一具,但聞空中音樂嘹喨。時鄭州自守倅以下官吏、將校、士庶、僧道,盡易衣服,欲入銅棺。而外狹內寬,皆莫能入。續監酒巾裹而來,衆請之入棺,亦無少(「少」,明刻本作「所」。)礙。少焉,復降銅蓋,綵雲繚繞,擎舉而上,仙韶鶴唳,瑞氣天香,靄靄不散,其棺冉冉向北而去。今為北極司壽限判官。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

A Household God Brings Property 家神送物

The family of Zhang Shuiyuan, of Yongfeng Stone Well in Xinzhou, served their household god with great reverence. The [lacuna] household god was an ancestor. The [lacuna] household had very little property, and later, due to the exhaustion of their property, the family prayed from dawn to dusk, hoping for assistance from the nether world. One day, when dusk was approaching, an old woman was seen walking straight in, carrying a bamboo box which she placed on a table in the ancestral hall. The family rushed out to meet her, but she was nowhere to be seen. When they looked at the portrait of a female ancestor in the ancestral hall, however, there was a close resemblance; the family were astonished and confused, and hesitated to look at the box. After a night had passed they finally opened and examined it, and all the contents were items of silver and gold. The Zhangs sold this and managed their property, and from this initial wealth became an important lineage. The old woman was their ancestress.

Among these ancestral spirits there are none who do not watch over their descendants from the nether world, cherishing people who live in ignorance, instead revering and praying to lascivious demons from dawn to dusk, calling them deities and divinities. When other people pray for their ancestors, this can be called auspicious and prosperous. If one pays no heed to one’s ancestors, failing to observe the seasonal offerings, not revering the tombs, even when there are descendants, how does this differ to the extinction of a lineage? If people can shift their reverence from lascivious demons to respectful service of their ancestors, it would not only be the Zhangs who receive protection and reward, and the deities of heaven and earth too would extend their generosity and protection.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.219 (Tale 389):

家神送物

信州永豐石井張稅院者,家事家神甚謹。[ ]家神者,祖先也。[ ]薄有貲產,後因破蕩,家人朝夕禱之,以冀陰相。一日將暮,忽見一嫗攜一小竹合子直入,置家堂中几案上,急出迎之,亦不見矣。但瞻家堂中所畫先世祖婆者如之,家人疑異,留不啟視。經宿啟視,皆黃白之物。張鬻之治產,(「產」,明刻本作 「生」。)因此貲產甲於〔一〕(據明刻本補。)族。蓋嫗者,祖婆也。夫祖宗英靈毋有不陰相子孫,惜人未之知,但朝夕奉祀淫鬼,指為神明。為他人祀祖宗,謂可徼福,反以本生祖宗置之度外,歲時不祭,墳墓不登,雖有子孫,絕嗣何異?儻能移祀淫鬼之心敬事祖宗,非惟如張氏之獲報,而天地神明亦加垂佑焉。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

Shigong Assists A Scholar 石公待士

The Xindu Shigong Temple of Anren County, in Hengzhou, was devoted to the White Serpent. In autumn, the gengyin year of the Zhiyuan era (1340?), a scholar going to a hostel was delayed, and lodged below the Shigong hall, and therefore prayed to the spirit: “Being in difficulties on the road, I hope the deity will show the way.” The spirit granted him a dream, and said: “In Hubei there is a great merchant, presently seen within this county town. His feet are terribly afflicted by sores, and he has expended five hundred thousand on seeking physicians. The physicians, however, have exhausted their skills to no effect; you will go and give him treatment.” The scholar said: “Your servant has never had skill in medicine; how can this be done?” The deity replied: “This merchant once boarded a boat before my temple and peed towards my shrine. I became angry at him and sent a small demon to prick his shins with a nail, leading to this. You should take ash from my incense burner and rub his sores. They will then be healed. If a reward is given, you may take it all as travel expenses, looking to the future and keeping my words secret. If not, what you gain will all be lost, and my offerings will lose their magnificence.” The scholar waited for the dawn and then went to the place directed, using things as directed. The great merchant’s sores then healed, and the scholar was rewarded as predicted. Due to all this the merchant declared him a lifelong friend. One day he asked about how the medicine had been obtained, and the scholar candidly explained the cause. The merchant was resentful, so made obeisances at the town god temple and paid for ten feasts at the Water and Land Festival, in order to bring a case against Shigong. At the fourth feast, Shigong appeared again to the scholar in a dream, saying: “At first, sympathizing with your hardship, means were provided for your salvation. Having been warned not to share secrets, you have now spoken of them. I am facing disaster, and everything you have gained will also be lost.” When the fifth feast was being prepared, lightning burst over the temple and burned it, and the scholar too fell ill and died.

Anon., Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 後2.217 (Tale 385):

石公待士

衡州安仁縣新渡石公廟素靈。至元庚寅秋,有士人趁旅邸不及,寓宿於石公祠下,遂禱於神云:「旅中困乏,冀神指迷。」神予之夢曰:「湖北有巨商,見在本縣城中,足瘡苦甚,已出五百千求醫。而醫者盡其伎不能效,汝往與醫。」士人云:「某素不善醫,奈何?」神曰:「此商嘗乘船在吾廟前對吾廟尿,吾怒之,令小鬼以釘刺其脛,故爾。汝以我殿上香鑪灰與擦其瘡,即愈。若如所酬,儘可為旅費,卻望隱吾言,不然汝所得隨喪,而吾之香火亦不隆矣。」士人俟天明前往彼處,如其言用之,巨商之瘡隨愈,而士人所得如數。巨商因此與士人為刎頸交。一日叩其得醫藥之因,士人遂直言其所以。巨商不平,遂於城隍廟拜設水陸齋十筵,以訟石公。至四筵,石公又託夢與士人言:「當初憫汝之貧,故以見告而周急。已嘗戒祝毋泄,今又言之,我亦遭禍,而汝所得亦喪。」設齋至第五筵,雷轟其廟而焚之,士人亦病喪焉。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).